Court Rules for Doctor Morally Opposed to War

     (CN) – The 2nd Circuit granted a military doctor’s request to be discharged from the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector, after the Sept. 11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan caused him to reject warfare and view his military position as “utterly incompatible with [his] beliefs regarding war, justice and God.”

     The Army review board’s refusal to discharge Dr. Timothy D. Watson was not based on facts and had no valid ground, the New York-based federal appeals court concluded.
     Dr. Watson signed up with the U.S. Army in 1998, through a health professions scholarship program. In January 2006, during the last year of his residency, he applied for a discharge as a conscientious objector.
     “I do now know that warfare is immoral, unnecessary, and completely incompatible with my purpose in life,” he wrote in his application. “The military science of exerting violent force against another should be beneath us now, an abominable and wretched last resort representing nothing more than a failure of reason and morality – the unique qualities which most exemplify what it means to be human.
     “With the overwhelming abundance of wealth in the world today, there are no rational arguments for war and I, as a being of freewill, refuse to participate in its practice at any level.”
     He added: “I prefer going to jail over killing or being part of an institution that kills. I prefer to die than to kill.”
     Watson said he would no longer use his medical training on active service members, because doing so “results in the functional equivalent of weaponizing human beings. … In the Army, my work to heal would result, however indirectly, in the infliction of unnecessary wounds and loss of life.
     “As a physician now morally opposed to killing and war, my separation from the U.S. Army is essential to my ability to live life and face death with a clear conscience.”
     He said his viewpoint shifted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
     The about-face was not welcome news to his father, a former member of the U.S. Army Reserves, or his mother, who said she was “shocked, surprised, disappointed [and] devastatingly frightened” by her son’s decision.
     Their statements were included with eight other letters of support from family members and colleagues. These letters described Watson as an honest, sincere man with strong moral convictions who stood up for his beliefs, even if it came at a high personal cost.
     But an Army review board rejected Watson’s application without explanation. Normally, this would require the court to remand the case to the Army.
     “However, remand would be futile, and is therefore not required, where there is no basis in fact to support (the review board’s) decision,” Judge Katzmann wrote.
     The court upheld the lower court’s decision to grant the doctor conscientious-objector status.

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